A/N Slashslashslash. Reviews are cool. I've checked this a million times so any mistakes are the product of my lazy eyes.
"The band's called 'Mainly Extensive and the Edition.'"
I peered up at Jeff over the edge of Rolling Stone.
"That doesn't even make sense."
He rolled his eyes, popping a slice of orange into his oversized mouth.
"It doesn't have to. It's called creativity. I don't suppose you'd know what that is if it ran you over. Besides, I think it's cool."
"Coming from the man who wears a trilby, I don't think that says much."
A glare was shot my way and I shrugged.
"Dude, a trilby and a mac. You look like Inspector Gadget."
His face soured, whether from my comment or the orange I'll never know.
"Look, I know you've got a lot of stuff on –" he started.
"Stuff? You make it sound so insignificant. I'm working 80 hours a week, I've got a landlord berating me about rent I can't fucking afford and on top of that-"
"Yeah, yeah, you're living the hard life, I get it. Stop being so overdramatic for a second and listen to me. This band's on the verge of something big and if you don't snap them up right now, someone else will. The lead singer's pretty clued up about the whole thing; they just need a little guidance, not you holding their hands. Take the opportunity, Jonah. You won't regret it."
I sighed, throwing the magazine down on my desk. I made a show of looking through my diary to let him know I didn't appreciate the extra workload. He grinned at me as I settled on the week before Christmas and extracted a pen from my jacket pocket.
"Great!" he enthused; rustling papers before finding the one he wanted. "Okay, so cool. December 19th, 2:45? How does that grab you?"
"Painfully," I muttered. "But it doesn't look like I have a choice does it?"
He ignored me. "Fantastic. This guy's great, he really is. I'll send you a couple of their demos. Carve out some time in January to attend some gigs, get to know them and we're on our way."
I grunted, snapping my diary shut and leaned back into the comfy leather.
"Oh, and one other thing. Your girlfriend called. She wants you to ring her as soon as you have a moment. I wouldn't put it off either. She sounds pissed."
That didn't surprise me. That woman was in a perpetual state of anger. Granted, it was generally aimed at yours truly, which probably said more about me than anything else. I didn't relish the phone call that I'd have to make. I already knew that it would consist of her shouting and me trying to say sorry for something I didn't remember doing. I glanced at the handset looking innocently up at me.
"Oh, you have no idea," I mumbled and dialled her number.
By the time I'd slipped out of the office and into my apartment, it was after midnight. I fumbled sleepily with the keys outside the door and fell into the hall, tripping over my housemate's shoes.
The soft hum of the television told me he was still awake which came as no surprise.
"Zee?" I called out, padding down the hall to the living room. The lights were off meaning the television cast an eerie glow over everything. My eyes adjusted to the darkness and settled on the couch. A human looking lump was moving and I squinted as if that would improve my night vision.
"Zee?" I asked again, and this time someone jumped from the sofa, cursing loudly.
"What the..." I snapped the light on and immediately wished I hadn't. Zee was laid on the couch, half naked which was half better than the man who had scrambled off of him. The mystery guy hurriedly pulled on his jeans, leaving Zee looking a little put out.
"Who's he?" I snapped, pointing accusatorily at the man.
"Oh, shit," the guy hissed. "You've got a boyfriend?"
"No!" Zee and I exclaimed in unison. Zee took his sweet time in sitting up and rubbing his face, dislodging his glasses.
"Fuck, Jonah, why do you always have to interrupt?" Pushing himself to standing, he smiled at the (now thankfully dressed) man.
"Jonah, this is Kitch."
"Lee Kitch," he expanded, shoving out a hand for me to shake. I almost took it before remembering what I'd just caught them doing. He let it drop, blushing slightly but still grinning, suddenly all chummy now he knew I wasn't screwing Zee. The thought made me shudder.
"Right, well...nice to meet you, I guess. I'm going to bed." I paused. "Which is probably what you two should do."
Zee gave me a salute and a muttered "aye aye, captain," before descending on Kitch again.
"Bed!" I shouted, slamming my door shut.
In the morning I awoke to the sharp smell of freshly made coffee. None of that instant crap. I estimated that at least a fifth of my wages went on expensive coffee beans, which may sound a lot, but you're working on the assumption that I earn a lot. Which is absurd.
People's reactions to my job vary widely. From "what the hell is an A&R scout?" to "wow, that's the coolest job ever!" A slight exaggeration. My work consists on reading the latest music magazines and spending long nights in dank, smelly bars. With kids. Sweating, spotty kids, pushing up against me and screaming in my ear. It wasn't like every gig I attended I spotted the next big thing. Most of them were college bands, screechy bastards singing about their latest breakup with "the girl of their dreams". You can laugh, you're not the one that has to endure it. And then you have the desperate rock stars, the ones who thrust demos and mixed cds into your hands, begging you to listen – "please, just listen" – and give your feedback. I'd given up even accepting the cds, such the cynic that I was. I'd heard far too much shit and not enough gold to actually warrant my listening ear. Jeff would insist I was giving too little attention to the offered music.
"What if you're declining the next Iron Maiden?"
What if. What if I had better things to do with my time? What if I had a life outside of work? Was that too hard to comprehend?
"Hey bud," Zee greeted as he popped up behind the kitchen island. "You got clothes that need washing?"
I shook my head and poured us both a coffee. Zee was a bit like my mother, minus the annoying voice and endless questions of "why won't you marry her?" and "when do I get my grandkids?"
I hadn't yet broke the news to her that I hated children and never in any circumstances, wanted one. Ok, I didn't hate children, per se. But kids meant germs and snot and vomit. I was squeamish at the best of times. I didn't even like looking at scrambled eggs.
"Is lover boy still here?"
Zee had his back to me but I could still sense that he was smiling. Gross.
"No, he left about an hour ago."
He came to sit down, brushing his messy brown hair from his eyes. Zee was the stereotypical nerd. He was the kind of guy that would dress up as a Klingon to go to a Star Trek convention. He tried to attend Comic Con every year even if it meant lying to his boss about a family member dying. He was also my partner in crime. Or he used to be.
We had always been useless around women. As soon as a member of the opposite sex came with ten feet, we'd start to panic and get out our book of "101 Great Chat Up Lines". Apparently Zee's 'sure-fire winner' of "Was your father an alien? Because there's nothing else like you on Earth!" didn't attract the ladies like the book promised. So we were two miserable adolescents, horny and considering hookers. But it wasn't so bad, because at least we were miserable together. That was until Zee discovered he preferred the company of those with a penis and suddenly he was getting laid more in a weekend than I had in my entire life.
I think the term befitting to him was "manwhore" but that was probably unfair. Hell, if I had people throwing themselves at me wanting to have sex, would I turn them down? And I supposed that gay men had it easier. Didn't men think about sex every three seconds? Whereas women were all into romance and long term relationships. Or so I was led to believe.
My mobile rang abruptly, disrupting the comfortable silence. Caller ID told me it was Jeff and I reluctantly answered.
"It's Saturday Jeff. Whatever you want me to do, the reply will forever and always be no."
A low chuckle that I didn't recognise came in place of Jeff's raspy tone.
"Who is this?" I snapped, downing the rest of my coffee. Zee raised an eyebrow.
"Sorry," a deep voice apologised, the laugh dying out. "This is Hayden."
"Hayden Underwood? Um, Jeff said that you'd be managing our band."
That sneaky little bastard. I hadn't even agreed! I hadn't even met them! Jesus, I was going to strangle him. I took a calming breath, and massaged my temple.
"Right. Is there anything I can help you with?"
"Well, Jeff said you'd be able to help us create a promo package? We've been trying to do it for a while and we can't quite figure out how to make it better. You think you'd be able to help?"
Clearly Jeff had been lying when he said the guy was clued up.
"You haven't got one together yet?" So much for them being on the verge of something big. "So...how many gigs have you done?"
"How did you get those?"
"Friends of friends," he replied. "We don't really know where to go from here."
"Fanbase?" I sighed, shaking my mug at Zee to get him to pour me another coffee.
"Um..." he laughed uncomfortably. "My brother's friends reckon we're quite good."
I groaned inwardly and let my head fall onto the countertop. Please let this be a joke.
"I think it'd be better if we did this in person," I told him. "Are you free Monday?"
He confirmed he was and I hung up before I started screaming. Zee took pity and started making me a bacon sandwich.
"This is ridiculous," I moaned. "Jeff told me they were about to go global. They've done fifteen gigs, Zee. Fifteen."
"Maybe Jeff really likes them and knew you wouldn't agree to manage them if he didn't lie. Besides, extra money. You're always complaining that scouting doesn't pay the rent. You've managed bands before, right? It's not that much work really."
"No, Zee, it wasn't. But this was a band of normal men, not guys who couldn't even put a promo package together. God, he even sounded thick. This is going to be a nightmare."
He handed me my bacon sandwich and patted my equally unruly hair.
"I really don't want to make your day worse, but Amie is coming round soon."
"Did she sound mad?" I wasn't ashamed to admit that my girlfriend's moods scared me somewhat. When Amie got angry, she got really angry. I'm talking launching ceramic objects at my head. Zee would remind me that I kinda deserved it. I was a shit boyfriend.
"Not as mad as she sounded the day you forgot her birthday, but pretty close."
"Ahh." I ran my hand over my face, rubbing sleep from my eyes.
"I need a shower," I said through a mouthful of bacon. "And an excuse to not see my girlfriend."
"Grow some balls!" Zee laughed, throwing his crusts at my head.
Amie arrived whilst I was in the shower. I considered staying in the stall but then the water ran cold and I had to do as Zee had suggested. I peered at my reflection in the foggy bathroom mirror and scrutinised my appearance. I'd never been one to obsess over looks and it showed. My hair stuck out at odd angles, refusing to lay flat on my head. My face was dotted with acne scars, courtesy of my impatient teenage self. My only redeeming quality was my smile, which everybody told me made me seem ten times more attractive. This was a pity, because I rarely showed it.
Amie was settled on the couch by the time I'd dressed. Her expression was one of exasperation rather than fury which I took as a good sign. I experimented with a small smile and she returned the gesture. Breathing a sigh of relief, I slid next to her, giving her a chaste kiss.
"Hey," I said quietly. She stayed silent for a moment, picking a loose thread on her jumper. She finally shifted her weight and brought her knees up onto the couch.
"I've been thinking," she started, and I immediately panicked. Shit, she was going to dump me. I was going to be an ineligible bachelor for the rest of my life.
"And I've decided that you need to take some more responsibility."
I stopped my previous thoughts in their tracks and frowned.
"Well...I know how flaky you are concerning our relationship," – ouch – "and I think it's because you need tying down."
Need tying down? What was I, a boat?
"No, listen. You're married to your job when you should be concentrating on us."
I felt like the air had been sucked from the room. I opened and closed my mouth like a fish out of water. My voice shook as I spoke.
"You...want to get married?"
This was NOT the plan I had in mind. God, I didn't want her to leave me, but this was a bit drastic.
"No," she said and I could breathe again. "I want us to have a baby."
And that's when I fainted.